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Singlehanded Sailor Whitall Stokes Departs Chile

The quest of a sailing record for Californian Whitall Stokes and his Open 50 Sparrow may be history, but they still have to get home. Whitall checked in with stories about the many repairs needed and the final countdown to departure from Puerto Williams, Chile.

On January 26 he wrote, “The box of parts arrived right on schedule! It was packaged beautifully by Steve. The box arrived apparently moving through Customs unopened.”

cardboard box
The box of parts arrived.
© 2021 Whitall Stokes

“The last few days have been busy here, and I’m down to just a few items left. I will finish all but one today, the battens and car installations due to the weather.” Whitall added, “Sparrow will be heading nonstop north up through the Atlantic to the East Coast of the US. Mostly due to my lack of confidence in the deck and rudder bearing, some due to COVID restrictions driving countries to close their borders to visitors.”

Whitall Stokes, Jim Quanci on sparrow
Whitall Stokes (left) and well-wishers aboard Sparrow on November 7, the day before Whitall’s departure from San Francisco Bay.
© 2021 Latitude 38 Media LLC / Chris

On the 29th they were almost ready to go. “As of this morning, Sparrow and I have been cleared to depart Chile. Sparrow is all patched up, ready for her venture north. First I shall try to motor upwind to the west 50 miles or so to see a glacier or two, then turn east, then north around the corner. I can’t say the weather is good for going west, but it’s good enough to get moving, and the barometer is rising. The tracker is on, pinging every hour.”

Whitall was also thinking about food. “I’m just waiting on bread. I’m told it’s worth waiting for! I have no doubt, as I have been breadless for a long time now and it’s been lurking as a secret craving. Other than that, the diesel tank is mostly full, the water tank is full, and I’ve plenty of food aboard. Everything is stowed and ready.”

The bread arrived and then they were off. “Lalo, the director of Cedenas, Cmdr Guerrero of the Naval Armada, and Rene came out to Sparrow with bread and gifts and to retrieve the dinghy they had loaned me. They were gracious and lovely as always, and I was sad to have to leave them.”

A planned side trip had to be canceled though. “I had hoped to head west to see some glaciers, but the weather would have none of it. 25 knots on the nose and Sparrow’s 20-hp engine is just not up to the task. As I write, I am passing Isla de los Estados on my way east going through the Beagle Channel.”

Beagle Channel
Whitall’s view of the Beagle Channel.
© 2021 Whitall Stokes

The stay in Chile was worth the trip. “I shall forever remember the warm, kind, and generous hospitality here in Puerto Williams. I dare say I shall be in touch with a number of them, as I am so grateful for their help and kindness. It has been a delightful visit.” Although he didn’t succeed in the circumnavigation, his adventure continues. “So my goal of sailing around the world has ended, but I accomplished the real goal of experiencing life’s amazing highs and lows. One amazing high is rounding Cape Horn. I am looking forward to some more weeks at sea, hopefully uneventful.”

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How many sailors have, or will at sometime move their boat across the land? Sailboats need to keep moving lest they become just one more among the many neglected or abandoned sailboats left to rot in some faraway yard.